A soft melody floats through the room, a gentle caress to the normal ear, but to my own, the sound is almost deafening. I can hear the breath of every person in the room, each time one of them swallows their own saliva, and the whump, whump, whump of the fan blades overhead. My hands are clammy so I wipe them on my pajama pants, focusing on the different donuts printed on the fabric to try and calm my jagged mind.
“Destiny Thompson?” The voice is soft, but I still jolt, wrenching my eyes up to meet the eyes of my new shrink. “Come on in, honey.”
Without even looking up my mother nudges me roughly with her elbow. “Don’t make me drag you again. Go.”
I clench my jaw and force my legs to lift me out of the chair and cross the room. The shrink holds the door open for me as I enter her office and closes it behind us. She motions for me to take a seat and I fall stiffly onto the couch as she takes a seat in the chair across from me, crossing her legs at the ankle.
She’s disgustingly pretty for someone who’s supposed to tell me how much of a mess I am and then fix me. She has blonde hair that’s coiled back into a sophisticated bun, and piercing blue eyes that accent her soft facial features. She’s model thin and wears a salmon button-up with a black high waisted pencil skirt and nude colored heels. Looking at her I feel overwhelmingly underdressed.
She examines me, too, as she reaches to grab her notepad on the table beside her chair. Her lips tighten for a fraction of a second before she scribbles something on the pad and then sets it down on her lap to focus on me.
“My name is Carol and I’ll be your psychiatrist from now until as long as you’ll have me.” She smiles, but it looks forced. “I’m sorry these are the circumstances that we’ve had to meet under, but it’s a pleasure to meet you none the less. Is there something you’d prefer I call you, or will Destiny do?”
“Destiny is fine,” I force out, barely above a whisper. My voice is rough, scratchy, and I barely recognize it as my own. I suppose weeks of not talking will do that to you. I rub my hands down the front of my pants again and the weight of her gaze as she watches me feels like a thousand pounds.
“I’d like for you to do this quiz if you would. Very simple, yes or no answers, much easier than school.” She passes a clipboard to me and I glance down at it.
At the very top, as the very first question on the page, is “have you ever had thoughts of suicide”. I want to laugh. For the first time in months, I want to throw my head back and laugh deep into my stomach until tears run down my cheeks. Is this a fucking joke?
“I know it seems silly, but this will let me know exactly where we’re starting from and what roads we’ll need to take. There’s no need for explanations to your answers right now, we’ll get to all that. What I’ve heard from your mother doesn’t help me. I need to know what’s in your thoughts.”
I nod stiffly, take a deep breath, and take the pen off the top of the clipboard and start circling answers as I work my way down the page. I find myself circling yes far more than no and I begin to wonder if I should be lying. Is it too much to lay it all bare right out of the gate? I finish it and pass it back to her before I can think too much about it and she skims over my answers, her lips pressed together. She finishes and sets it aside, pursing her lips, her red lipstick giving them the look of a heart as she does so.
“We both know that you’ve had a rough history, but I want to start from the very beginning. I want to go back as far as you can remember and see what that gives us to work with. That will be hard, with how things are currently, so I’d like to prescribe you an antidepressant. It will help smooth things out a bit so we can make progress quicker.”
“And they’re going to fix me?” The words come out on a forced laugh and I’m surprised at myself for the outburst.
With a sigh, she sets her notepad to the side and uncrosses her legs to lean forward with her elbows on her knees. I’m sure the intention of the move is to make us feel closer, more connected, for what she says next. “That’s not quite how it works. It’s not a cure-all. It’s just something to keep you stable as we work through anything that you need to work through. The pills and I are just to point you in the right direction, but you are the one that’s going to have to do all the work.”
I shrug, the weight of her words crushing me. There’s a tightening in my chest as I force my gaze away from her own. What’s the point? I jerk as she puts her hand on my knee, my eyes colliding with her’s again as she pulls her hand back. As if I’ve been lain completely open to her, she sighs and leans back in her chair again, giving me space to breathe.
“We are usually much, much stronger than we think.” She says this with a pointed look, something akin to “you have no choice but to be”.
I gnaw on my lower lip. I feel like the weakest of the weak. Every day is a war, and the last six months alone have worn me ragged. I haven’t even mastered getting out of bed and into normal clothes. My pajamas and unbrushed hair are a huge testament to that.
“And what if I’m not stronger than I think? What if I’m done with trying, and don’t want to do anymore?”
The corners of her mouth tug down for a second and she picks up her notepad again, scribbling as she responds. “Look, Destiny. All of this is up to you. No one can make you want to do something that you don’t want to but I really hope that you decide there is at least something worth pulling through for. Maybe your mother-”
“My mother is the reason that I’m here.” My words are sharp, anger boiling just below the surface, but she just smiles.
“For yourself, then. You’re young, and you’ll still have an incredible future ahead of yourself if you allow it. You don’t have to let one day desecrate your entire existence.”
“Let it? I didn’t let one day do anything, it just did it on its own.”
“You’re right. What happened was out of your control. But what’s happening now, you’re the only one with a say so in how that’s going. So how would you say it's going?” She raises her eyebrows expectantly, clearly already knowing the answer.
“I’d say it’s going rather shitty. And yeah, maybe that’s because I’m letting it. This wouldn’t even be a problem if she’d just left me alone.”
“You mean if she had just left you alone to die?” There’s a pity in her eyes that makes my chest tighten as she looks down at my arms, where the twin scars hide beneath my sleeves, before meeting my gaze again. “I don’t think that you really mean that. I think if you did then you would have already tried again.”
I scoff, rolling my eyes. “What makes you think that I’m not just waiting for a good time?” She smiles again, and it makes my blood boil. She knows more than I want her to and her smile is the way of letting me know she sees straight through me, even when I’m trying not to let her.
“Every time you or I mention it, every part of you tightens up. Your jaw clenches, your fists ball up, you sit up straighter, and your pupils dilate. You aren’t waiting for a good time, Destiny. You terrified yourself. In a moment of utter agony, you made a reflex decision to end everything and you got so close, so perilously close to that ledge that you thought you’d go over it.”
Silence hangs heavy over the room once she’s made her point. The feeling in the depth of my stomach tells me that she’s right on the money with her evaluation. Everything being over would be so much easier than this. The nothingness that accompanies the end would be my salvation but my brush with death made me terrified of it.
“Where do I even begin?” The words come out as a whisper, my voice quavering.
“Right here, in this room. We start from the beginning, as far back as you feel like you need to go, and we just let it take us where it will. We’ll get to the gritty stuff eventually, but it’s your pace. There’s no pressure, no judgment.”
“But what about all the rest of the time that I have?” I’m drowning in my thoughts. I can’t do it anymore.
“The rest of the time, you go back to being as normal as possible. That part is at your pace, too. Going back to school, making friends, socializing... It’s all important to getting things back on track.”
She gives me a smile that I’m sure it supposed to be reassuring but it doesn’t even touch the bile-soaked pit of dread at the bottom of my stomach. The thought of going back to school scares the shit out of me. I don’t know if I can handle the looks, the questions, the judgment. Mom thought a new school would make it easier, but she was wrong. The less I have to explain, the better. Maybe I can pretend to be a mute.
“Again, your pace. I know it’s scary to think about, but it’s one step at a time, one foot in front of the other.” She stands and walks over to her desk, scribbling something on a piece of paper before bringing it over to me. “We’ll see if this helps. Just follow the directions on the bottle. No more than needed. We’ll leave it at that this time, and see what we can’t start with next Wednesday, okay?”
I nod, but it’s almost an out of body experience. I’m lost in the recesses of my mind, floundering in all the things that could possibly happen. It’s been six months... Am I really ready for this?
I’m out of the room before I even realize that I’ve stood up, and my mom raises to her feet with a sigh like she’s been waiting for hours. Without a word I pass the prescription to her, careful not to let my fingers brush her’s as I do so. She reads it, shaking her head as she turns to leave. I already know what she's going to say before we’ve stepped across the threshold.
The door barely has time to fall closed before she huffs out another aggravated sigh. My arms instantly wrap around my front of their own accord as I curl in on myself, my shoulders slumped. Her steps are long and quick and I struggle to keep up with her as we cross the parking lot to our rundown Toyota Camry. She pulls the door open, the hinges groaning as she does so, before flopping into the seat and jerking the door closed behind her.
I circle around the car to my side and take a quivering breath as I open my own door and lower myself into the seat. With the door closed securely behind me, I lean against the solidness of it to ground myself as she turns to me.
“What the hell, Destiny? What did you say to her?” she growls, waving the prescription between us.
“Nothing that wasn’t true.” I meant for it to come out strong, but the words are barely above a whisper.
“This shit isn’t going to help you. This is exactly why I didn’t want to bring you here in the first place but you gave me no choice!” She glares at me for a few breaths, like she wants me to defend myself, but I stay silent. “This is a band-aid. A cover-up. I don’t like the idea of you being on antidepressants, and frankly, I don’t think you need them.” Her voice is softer now, but I can still feel her anger in each word.
I swallow, hard, and force myself to raise my eyes to meet her own. “You are the one that brought me here for help. You are the one who didn’t listen to anything I had to say from the very beginning of all of this.”
“Don’t you dare twist your wallowing around onto me!”
I force out a laugh. “Wallowing. Yeah, that’s what this is. You are the reason I am like this. Don’t you think you owe me by at least letting the help you sought out for me do her job? Somehow I think she knows more about this than you, seeing as you’re just a nurse.”
Her eyes harden, and she turns away from me to squeeze the steering wheel, her lips pressed together into a thin line. She takes a deep breath through her nose before pushing it back out through her mouth. Finally, she turns back to me.
“Whatever. I’ll get your stupid pills. Don’t say I never did anything for you.”
She jerks her seatbelt across her and I’m surprised it doesn’t lock up on her with the abrupt motion. It takes several cranks before the engine catches, but once it does she shifts into drive and pulls out of the space we occupy. I can tell she wants to say more, that she’s holding back something heavy. The silence may as well be a wet blanket with its weight, and I wish that the radio wasn’t broken so it would ease some of the strain. She glances over at me.
“Would you put your seatbelt on?” She turns her eyes back to the road, but even in profile, I can read her thoughts in her eyes. They clearly read “do you want to die?” which, obviously, to some extent I do, which I’m sure is what keeps her from asking.
I pull the belt across me and click it into place with a sigh, turning my gaze out the side window so that I don’t have to look at her anymore. The constant, dull ache in my chest lessens a fraction with her out of view, without her voice nagging in my ear. I watch as the scenery passes by us, all buildings and people unknown to me.
There is a sort of beauty to moving to a new place. The excitement of the unfamiliar is enticing and, given any other circumstance in my life, I’d have wanted to explore as much as I could in a short time. Instead, for the last month and a half, I’ve stayed confined to our new house. It’s small, but it’s quaint.
Mom turns the car into a Walgreens and pulls into a space. Without a word she climbs from the car, leaving it running, the door groaning closed behind her. As soon as she’s gone I lean across her seat to lock the door and then lock my own. If my life has taught me anything thus far it’s that you can’t even trust the people you know so to hell with trusting strangers.
I lean my head back against the seat and close my eyes. I could do something on my phone but I don’t really have any interest. Any friends that I had before are long gone so that takes care of both texting and social media. I don’t have the willpower to play games so that’s out too.
I jolt at knocking on the window, to find my mother glaring into the car at me. I must have fallen asleep for however long she was gone. Leaning across the seat again, I unlock her door and she climbs in, tossing a bag into the back seat and a paper prescription bag into my lap.
“Happy?” she snaps, and I remain silent. How she stays angry for so long is amazing to me. Just watching it is emotionally exhausting for me, so I don’t know how she lasts. Her brain must be loaded down with a plethora of Energizer batteries to keep going so long.
I take hold of the bag and it crinkles lightly under my grip. The name on it is mine, prescribed specifically for me, so surely taking them is the right choice. Right? I run my fingers over the prescription info. Lexapro. The name alone gives me pause. Will these really help anything?
I’ve already talked mom into getting them, but I’m more unsure of myself at this moment than I’ve been since the incident. Surely Carol knows better than me on all this, seeing as she is the shrink and I’m just a broken girl, somewhat wanting to be fixed, somewhat wanting to remain broken. Clearly, my own judgment on this can’t be trusted.